Every now and then I like posting something incisive that was written in the past because it speaks so well into the present. The sweet thing about this is that these guys, who are often waved away today, have dealt with a lot of the same issues while remaining simultaneously (by the modern mind) ignored. This comes from Wayne Grudem.
We will not at this point repeat the arguments concerning the authority of Scripture that were given in chapter 4. There it was argued that all the words in the Bible are God’s words, and that therefore to disbelieve or disobey any word in Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God. It was argued further that the Bible clearly teaches that God cannot lie or speak falsely (2 Sam. 7:28; Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18). Therefore, all the words in Scripture are claimed to be completely true and without error in any part (Num. 23:19; Pss. 12:6; 119:89, 96; Prov. 30:5; Matt. 24:35). God’s words are, in fact, the ultimate standard of truth (John 17:17).
Especially relevant at this point are those Scripture texts that indicate the total truthfulness and reliability of God’s words. “The words of the Lord are words that are pure silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times” (Ps. 12:6, author’s transl.), indicates the absolute reliability and purity of Scripture. Similarly, “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him” (Prov. 30:5), indicates the truthfulness of every word that God has spoken. Though error and at least partial falsehood may characterize the speech of every human being, it is the characteristic of God’s speech even when spoken through sinful human beings that it is never false and that it never affirms error: “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should repent” (Num. 23:19) was spoken by sinful Balaam specifically about the prophetic words that God had spoken through his own lips.
With evidence such as this we are now in a position to define biblical inerrancy: The inerrancy of Scripture means that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact.
This definition focuses on the question of truthfulness and falsehood in the language of Scripture. The definition in simple terms just means that the Bible always tells the truth and that it always tells the truth concerning everything it talks about. This definition does not mean that the Bible tells us every fact there is to know about any one subject, but it affirms that what it does say about any subject is true.
It is important to realize at the outset of this discussion that the focus of this controversy is on the question of truthfulness in speech. It must be recognized that absolute truthfulness in speech is consistent with some other types of statements, such as the following:
1. The Bible Can Be Inerrant and Still Speak in the Ordinary Language of Everyday Speech. This is especially true in “scientific” or “historical” descriptions of facts or events.
2. The Bible Can Be Inerrant and Still Include Loose or Free Quotations.
3. It Is Consistent With Inerrancy to Have Unusual or Uncommon Grammatical Constructions in the Bible.
Grudem, W. A. (1994). Systematic theology : An introduction to biblical doctrine
I had preached through the book of Colossians by focusing on how Paul reorients our thinking with a renewed focus on Christ and God’s Gospel. MP3′s after the jump.
- Overview of Colossians Overview of Colossians
- Prayers of Paul Prayers of Paul
- Seven Lenses to Look Through Seven Lenses to Look Through
- Suffering For Christ Suffering For Christ
- Treasures Hidden In Christ Treasures Hidden In Christ
- Above Thinking: Where Christ Is Above Thinking: Where Christ Is
- Christ: Our Motivating Factor Christ: Our Motivating Factor
- Altogether Involved in God’s Work Altogether Involved in God’s Work
I enjoy making graphics and every now and then I have some sort of chart or graphic that makes sense to me, though rarely I share them. One of my favorites is the one on Psalm 110. Here’s one I had made on 1 Cor 2:2 but without highlighting other verse connections. I should probably go back and do that. I’ve included two: one with the intro part of the verse and one which focuses on what Paul might have meant by Jesus Christ and Him Crucified and how that really isn’t a small thing (in other words, it’s not Nothing vs. A Little Something; It’s Nothing–the Wisdom of the World–versus A Whole Lot of Something Encapsulated in Three Words).
Click on the images for biggie sized versions.
In a Philosophy Friday I addressed the question “Did Jesus Fear” where I pointed out that it depends on what we mean by fear. Fear, I noted, isn’t wrong in itself and might actually be necessary for basic living. But I wanted to make a textual observation that I really didn’t have room for in that post (and plus, it detracts from the primary philosophical considerations).
The textual observation is in regards to Hebrews 5:7
In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. (NASB)
Personally I think piety (even knowing the definition) is a strange word to use but the NASB has a habit of doing that. The NIV does a better job of getting the idea across by translating it as reverent submission.
The Greek term there (eulabeias) is later translated by the NASB in Heb 12:28 as awe.
What’s interesting is when you look at the KJV family. The KJV translates Heb 5:7 as “because he feared” while Heb 12:28 as “godly fear”. This clues us English readers about the problem with translating words only with their literal meaning.
What does the word eulabeia actually mean? Maybe it is only the good fear like reverence?
Well, that collides with its usage when we see the word being used to mean actually fearing (Acts 23:10) something like moved in Heb 11:7 (although the NASB translates it there as reverence) and in the Septuagint (admittedly, an older Greek) 1 Sam 18:29 the word could mean something like being astounded.
So now you have a word (eulabeia) which could mean reverence and it could mean actual fear. Hrm. Maybe we can differentiate it by looking at one of the other words for fear: phobos?
The Bible is choc-full of references with this word but the problem of literal meaning comes up once again. In Matthew 14:26; Rom 13:3; and 1 John 4:18 it means terror or fear but sometimes it could mean reverence, respect, or honor (1 Pet 1:17; 1 Peter 3:2; Rom 13:7; 2 Corinthians 5:11).
This is all to conclude that textually, you can’t decide on a position merely because of the words being used. The words can mean something differently in different contexts and within those contexts is where you find the proper breeding ground for this or that position. Mind you, this isn’t to say you can embrace whatever you want. Just because the words have a range of meaning doesn’t imply that you can pick or choose from whatever you want within that range.
In this case a simplistic answer of “No.” or “Yes.” To the question “Did Jesus fear” doesn’t do justice to the words themselves, but it also doesn’t do justice to the text since it doesn’t adress all the complexities involved within the text.
It winds up being primarily a philosophical question (as I pointed out in that other post) based on the implications of the theology of the hypostatic union—which is exceedingly Biblical.
Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Vol. 2: Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament
Lust, J., Eynikel, E., & Hauspie, K. (2003). A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint
Newman, B. M. (1993). A Concise Greek-English dictionary of the New Testament
Thomas, R. L. (1998). New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek dictionaries : Updated edition.
Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary : New Testament
The other day, my buddy Keith Keyser sent me a link to an article by James Hamilton Jr., an associate professor at Southern Baptist Seminary whereby Hamilton lays down what he sees are the logical ends of adhering to dynamic equivalence theory (going forward I’ll refer to it as functional equivalence) when it comes to Bible Translations. In the end, he says, the translator has decided to translate what he thinks the author means over against the words the author uses. His main examples were grounded on the “glory” language of the Gospel according to John and the importance of retaining that sort of thing. His closing thoughts are that if one doesn’t know the original languages then one should stick to a formal equivalence translation.
I’m torn because I’m a bilingual Hispanic American.
Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean that I don’t understand English. I do. The thing is, because I understand both languages, I understand the fundamental problems in adhering to solely a formal equivalent translating theory. But before I get to that I need to explain the problem strictly within the confines of the English language.
Another buddy of mine, Dan, was doing a word study on the term “light” and noted how the word is used in English. Dan realized that he couldn’t really pin down the meaning of the word light. It can literally mean an electromagnetic radiation that travels in a vacuum at the speed of 300,000km per second and it can literally mean not-heavy. It can just as easily mean something that informs (shed some light on the problem), public knowledge (bringing something to light), or an igniting flame (hey bud, you got a light?)
Dan stumbled across the first obstacle of translation which I’d expand on by saying that the word “light” has no singular literal meaning.
How do you translate light into Spanish? You can’t just translate it luz because you don’t really know which meaning of “light” you’re applying. This is invariably a problem with Google Translator. Type in a single word, and it’ll give you a meaning. Change the sentence and watch the words change. What you need is a context. So if the sentence the word “light” resides in is “turn on the light” then you can translate it to luz. But if the context is “Wow, this baby is very light” you can’t translate it to luz. You would either use the word ligero or the phrase de poco peso (which means of little weight).
But even then, you have to be careful. The receptor language (the language that is receiving the words that are being communicated, in this case Spanish is receiving the translation of the English words) might have a semantic range on words that can cause very strange meanings. For example, in the right context luz means to give birth. So you can have the phrase “Give light” be translated to Dar luz and the phrase “Give birth” be translated “Dar a luz”.
This is another major problem that plagues a formal equivalent translation. Indeed, you don’t even know when words change. So a word in the original language might perfectly translate to “gay” in 1611 but today it causes snickers and you have to use the word “happy” or “cheerful”.
Problems multiply exponentially when you employ idioms or euphemisms. I remember my father translating for an American English speaker who used the words “That’s totally cool”. My father couldn’t translate it to the literal words because it wouldn’t convey the same meaning at all: something like “that is thoroughly frigid.” So my father used an Hispanic idiom that conveys the same idea but literally has problems if it was coming back to English: “onda max” which literally means “deep wave or depth””.
And forget other idioms like “who let the cat out of the bag” or “he that pisses against the wall.” (the literal translation of a phrase in 1 Kings 16:11 but which not even the NASB—an exceedingly literal translation—nor the Darby version, translates literally!)
What you quickly discover that if you’re doing any translation, you’re trying to convey what the text means in the original language and you can’t even consistently do that solely with a formal equivalent theory. Of course, a person can then swing completely the other way and decide that because what’s maximally important is the meaning, then the original words don’t matter—and that would be a mistake. Not only because the original words are inspired, but because you’ve stepped into a minefield of trying to clear up specific ambiguities.
For example, going back to our light problem, let’s say you have a guru who purposefully speaks about light shining in darkness, the effects of light to the darkness and how his message is light and that we who don’t come to terms with the message are blind and in the dark. If you translated what the guru was saying by means of explaining what he is saying, you’ve lost the ambiguity the guru was putting forward as well as the very colorful metaphor. What translators tend to do in this case, is keep the words (the form) while trying to convey what the words are doing (the function).
But then, the ambiguity goes even further when you realize that Greek and Spanish, unlike English, can insert gender into nouns and specify the action source within a verb. So while in English we use the word “I” or “You” or “They” for the object of a verb (I say; you say; they say), Spanish just conjugates the verb (to say: decir) with the right form (I say: digo; You say: dice; They say: dicen). English allows you to know that the subject is male or female (he or she) until it’s either personal or more than one: then you don’t have a clue. So if it’s a group of women speaking, you’ll say “they say” but in Spanish we’d add ellas which indicates group of women.
In Koine Greek (the Greek of the New Testament), you can conjugate the verb (lego: I say; legeis: you say; legousin: they say) but you have no clue about the sex unless you have other words (like nouns) which have the gender inserted. In Spanish we sometimes add an –a in the back of the noun to indicate feminine and an –o to indicate masculine but that in no way indicates the object is either feminine or masculine. Los vecinos at the puerta are masculine neighbors at the feminine door but you might just discover that it’s a mixed gender group and your door is totally sexless: a few more sentences and we’ll slam right into the gender neutral language of the TNIV and the NIV 2011!
So what do we do with all this?
Well, I definitely don’t think this means we should be chucking our formal equivalent versions and all purchasing an NIV 2011. Nor do I think that we should follow Hamilton in sticking only with a formal equivalent Bible. I think we should be trying to learn the original languages (they’re so rich after all) but I also think that we live in a very productive day and age with a fine amount of scholarship behind various translations.
The best, I think, is to employ multiple versions and consistently use them all in your studies. If I were to offer a recommendation, I’d say: NASB (formal), ESV (formal with better English) HCSB (mediating with delicious English), NET (mediating with delicious notes), NIV (functional), NLT (functional) and MSG (purely functiona and that links to the audio versionl). I’d make one of the first three my main Bible (mine is the NASB) and I’d check across the others. The MSG wouldn’t be so much for checking, but for seeing how meaning can be conveyed. I’d recommend Gordon Fee’s How To Choose A Translation but with the caveat that he unnecessarily comes down hard on formal equivalent versions.
Oh, and when is a door not a door? When it’s ajar. Yup, I didn’t mention puns, poetry, or plays on words either!
Zondervan has published another addition their Essential Bible Companion series, this time focusing on the Psalms. This Essential Bible Companion to the Psalms, by Brian L. Webster (associate professor of Old Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary) and David Beach ( a licensed counselor who teaches psychology and spiritual formation courses at Cornerstone University) clocks in at 185 pages and does no less than cover every Psalm coupled with several charts. They sent me the book to review it, and here it goes.
Design and Structure
The Design of the book follows the format of other books in the series. It’s colorful, has nice photography, legible font at a nice readable type size, large bold headings letting you know exactly where you are. They know how to move the eye.
And the information on the page is no different. Each Psalm is split into several sections listed as:
- Theme: the main idea of the Psalm
- Type: the literary form of the Psalm (lament, praise, royal, etc)
- Author: who wrote it or musical notations
- Backgorund: self-explanatory
- Structure: how the stanzas are grouped with a sketch of the thought-flow.
- Special Notes: some commentary on words or images in the Psalm.
- Reflection: or Application to us today.
For example, you can open up to say Psalm 45 and see the theme of God blessing the king; that the type is a Royal psalm; that it is a maskil of the Sons of Korah to the tune of “Lilies”; that the Psalm is divided into an address to the King, then the grandeur to the King, then a description of the Bride. The Special Notes section describes this imagery pointing to areas of trade in the ancient world and some other details (like maskil may mean “skillful” or “making prudent”) The application shows us that the themes for marriage appear in other places in Scripture and that marriage applies to all marriages.
Likewise, Psalm 137 (one I touched on here in the Bible Archive) gives us the historical background of the Psalm (Judah has been sacked by Nebuchadnezzar; Edom is ransacking and pillaging Jerusalem) and then points to other passages where punishment oracles are leveled against Babylon (cf. Isaiah 13-14; Jeremiah 50-41; Hab 2).
Language and Readership
The writing in the book is concise, not making citations for further reading, focused on the Biblical resource available to believers, and written in a way that could come alongside a morning devotional. Even the earliest section of the book which focuses on explaining the types of literature (lament, royal, etc) or focusing on the poetic structure isn’t so much an integral part of the book as much as offering an explanation for the language that comes later in the book.
So when you get to the chart that divvies up the Psalms into categories, you’ve already been exposed to the language that is being used, and the idea of meditating on the Psalms in our everyday situation. In the words of the authors
“To own thee expressions as ours, we not only shape their words with our mouths, but we must let our spirits be guided by their wisdom. So we copy the psalmists, changing out our particular situation for theirs, yet follow their lead in approaching God.
Its self-evident then that the book is aimed as an informative guide to what is fundamental, or basic, in each of these Psalms so that the Christian can sit and think on them on their day to day.
It’s beyond the scope of the book, so I can’t fault them for not doing what I proceed to suggest, but I would like it if there were (a) references for some deeper studies and (b) more application on how it ties to Christ—like a Christological section. I think the book is helpful, yes, but those would have made the book perfect for me.
In fact, I would recommend the book as a joiner with anyone who does morning devotionals, is interesting in doing devotions, or anyone who hasn’t read the Psalms and want to start. This breaks it down without being overbearing, it’s easy to process the information, and it accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do: give you the essentials.
More reviews here.
Every now and then I like posting something incisive that was written in the past because it speaks so well into the present. The sweet thing about this is that these guys, who are often waved away today, have dealt with a lot of the same issues while remaining simultaneously (by the modern mind) ignored. This one comes from James M. Gray in The Fundamentals.
Let it be stated further in this definitional connection, that the record for whose inspiration we contend is the original record—the autographs or parchments of Moses, David, Daniel, Matthew, Paul or Peter, as the case may be, and not any particular translation or translations of them whatever. There is no translation absolutely without error, nor could there be, considering the infirmities of human copyists, unless God were pleased to perform a perpetual miracle to secure it.
But does this make nugatory our contention? Some would say it does, and they would argue speciously that to insist on the inerrancy of a parchment no living being has ever seen is an academic question merely, and without value. But do they not fail to see that the character and perfection of the God-head are involved in that inerrancy?
Some years ago a “liberal” theologian, deprecating this discussion as not worth while, remarked that it was a matter of small consequence whether a pair of trousers were originally perfect if they were now rent. To which the valiant and witty David James Burrell replied, that it might be a matter of small consequence to the wearer of the trousers, but the tailor who made them would prefer to have it understood that they did not leave his shop that way. And then he added, that if the Most High must train among knights of the shears He might at least be regarded as the best of the guild, and One who drops no stitches and sends out no imperfect work.
Is it not with the written Word as with the incarnate Word? Is Jesus Christ to be regarded as imperfect because His character has never been perfectly reproduced before us? Can He be the incarnate Word unless He were absolutely without sin? And by the same token, can the scriptures be the written Word unless they were inerrant?
But if this question be so purely speculative and valueless, what becomes of the science of Biblical criticism by which properly we set such store today? Do builders drive piles into the soft earth if they never expect to touch bottom? Do scholars dispute about the scripture text and minutely examine the history and meaning of single words, “the delicate coloring of mood, tense and accent,” if at the end there is no approximation to an absolute? As Dr. George H. Bishop says, does not our concordance, every time we take it up, speak loudly to us of a once inerrant parchment? Why do we not possess concordances for the very words of other books?
Nor is that original parchment so remote a thing as some suppose. Do not the number and variety of manuscripts and versions extant render it comparatively easy to arrive at a knowledge of its text, and does not competent scholarship today affirm that as to the New Testament at least, we have in 999 cases out of every thousand the very word of that original text? Let candid consideration be given to these things and it will be seen that we are not pursuing a phantom in contending for an inspired autograph of the Bible.
The Fundamentals : The famous sourcebook of foundational biblical truths (2:12-14).
A week or so ago, I finished my 84 Day reading plan which was an NASB OT-NT with Proverbs and Psalms every day. On April first I started an 85 day reading plan with my ESV but this time focused on chronology. But there are others out there who might want to read along so I’ve included the plan for you. None of this is original and can be found on the Logos Wiki.
The deceptive (and dangerous) sweetness of viscous ideas might be accompanied by Scripture’s corrective sting.